How to improve your insulation with proper sealing

Insulation is only as good as its seals. Here's some caulking and sealing tips to help lower your heating bills.

How to improve your insulation with proper sealing

Seal with spray foam

  • A handy product for sealing air gaps is polyurethane spray foam, available in aerosol cans at home centres.
  • Spray foam requires no special tools or skills to use, but follow the instructions carefully.
  • Don't touch the foam with your fingers while it's wet.
  • Spray foam comes in two forms: expandable and non-expandable.
  • Expandable foams fill cavities too thick for caulk, but jambs and siding tend to bulge if the foam is used too liberally.
  • Non-expandable foams are a safer choice to use around plumbing, wiring, entry points, windows and doors.

Caulking correctly

  • Caulk is a flexible gap filler that maintains a seal between building materials despite seasonal contractions.
  • Every house needs caulk to seal cracks all over the home, from windows and doors to around plumbing, venting and electrical entry points.
  • It's important to inspect your house's caulk lines every few years and re-caulk problem areas.
  • Caulk is sold in tubes and comes in clear and coloured formulations. Use the right caulk for the right job.
  • Caulk that's 100 percent silicone provides good service and lasts more than 20 years. But it's expensive, not paintable and tricky to apply.
  • New "siliconized" acrylic and latex caulks have many of the same positive properties as pure silicone, but are less expensive, paintable and easier to apply.
  • Copolymer caulk is another long-lasting and easy-to-use choice.

Important caulking tips

Caulking can be tricky. Here's how to get started:

  1. Start by scraping away loose caulk and debris. Have a rag on hand, dampened with water (for latex or latex-silicone caulk) or mineral spirits (for silicone), for mistakes.
  2. Place the tube in a caulking gun by pulling the plunger all the way back and slipping in the tube. Push in the plunger and twist it to engage the ratchet.
  3. Cut the tip of the tube at an angle and puncture the tube's inner seal by pushing a long nail into the spout.
  4. Squeeze the trigger of the gun to start the caulk flowing.
  5. To apply caulk, place the tip of the tube against the seam and move it smoothly along the seam as you gently squeeze the trigger, producing an even bead.
  6. For a smooth finish, wipe the bead with a caulk-smoothing tool, a plastic spoon or a frozen-pop stick.
  7. Be aware that some caulks contain harmful chemicals and are hard to remove from your skin.

Insulation isn't effective if air's blowing through it. Make sure that your walls and attic are sealed against drafts before you add insulation and you could have a much more efficient home.

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